Clinical Cases Homeopathy Papers Materia Medica

Side by Side Homeopathy

Homeopath Elena Cecchetto reports on her experiences using homeopathy in a community of homeless and substance addicted people. This paper demonstrates the effectiveness of homeopathy in situations where there is extreme need but there are very few resources.


I went to school at Vancouver Homeopathic Academy with Murray Feldman graduating in 2007. When I was in my fourth year of school, I did a project on using homeopathy for substance misuse. This work was inspired by the troubles my partner at the time was going through. I was asked by a woman who worked for the Portland Hotel Society if I would be interested in doing that kind of work for the people in Vancouver’s DownTown EastSide (DTES).

The area is known as a downtown Vancouver area covering a few block radius where the police turn a blind eye to drugs being used and dealt very openly. It’s a very densely populated area where there are many marginalized, homeless and substance addicted people.

Portland Hotel Society (PHS) is a Canadian non-profit society created in 1993 to provide advocacy, housing and various services for the marginalized citizens of Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside. It had approximately 451 staff and supports, 1,153 rooms (AKA SROs-Single Residency Occupancy hotels – old hotels that are used as living spaces in the DTES). PHS is also famous for opening North America’s first legal supervised-injection site called INSITE.

PHS began by converting old local hotels to housing for homeless people and named the first one after the American city of Portland, Oregon due to its reputation for aiding homeless people.

Once I graduated I put in a proposal to the executive director but it didn’t go forward at that time. Less than a year later, I was working with a homeopath who also held a ‘doctor’ title before his name and I told him he should give it a try. We were able to get on the PHS’s good side and were allowed to offer homeopathy to their clients. Then a group of more than 20 homeopaths started the non-profit group called Side by Side Homeopathy back in 2008 to volunteer with the marginalized populations of Vancouver in the DTES.

We now have three ‘pods’ (different DTES PHS locations) that we send our homeopaths to. Each pod gets a team of two homeopaths one half day weekly or every second week.

At the POD that I work at (ONSITE which is above the injection site called INSITE) we’ve been consistently seeing approximately 200 people per year. There, we are using homeopathy for acute and chronic trauma, PTSD, constipation, digestive concerns (and other detox-like symptoms), anxiety/restlessness, anger/irritability, grief/loss, insomnia, liver problems and acute and chronic pain.


Case Examples:

(Excerpts from Materia Medica are taken from Vermeulen’s Synoptic unless otherwise noted.)

This was one of our very first clients and we were being observed by the social worker staff member of PHS to see what it was we were going to actually do. Along with another homeopath I started asking some questions of our first client. She’s was an obese, elderly woman hooked up to an oxygen machine because she suffered from COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease). Crack was her drug of choice and it sends her into panic attacks. Neither of us had seen a client this fragile with such a deep chronic illness as COPD in our regular private practice. Luckily she described to us what she needed and what she felt like during those panic attacks. “I Couldn’t breathe – felt like I wasn’t getting enough air”. We could see in that she was slouched. I thought she was going to slip down out of her wheelchair. She looked clammy, grey and like she was trying to use the least energy to exist. After hearing her tell us that she needed to have the window open no matter how cold it is in the room or outside – that she wanted the air blown directly on her face, we just turned and looked at each other and it was decided… Find The Carbo Veg!



-desire to be fanned (air on her face)

-Hippocratic pallor (grey clammy look)

-craves things that do themselves harm (her drug of choice gives her panic attacks)


When I was doing my project in the fourth year, I theorized that it would be relatively easy to do homeopathy for that population. I had watched documentaries on addictions and on the DTES and saw some very distinct characters and characteristics. Mainly the impression I got is that there is that raw state – the uncompensated state – they are who they are – been through so much – they have no energy for keeping up pretenses or ‘compensating’. Some of this is true. At ONSITE, the POD that I volunteer at, most of the people that we see are fresh off injectibles as their drugs of choice.

Prescribing on ‘THE STATE’ fresh from detoxing from various injectibles…


Everything is very immediate and sudden. There is a lot of restlessness, nervousness, they are very tense, they have a very wide eye response with a feeling of imminent danger/threat to someone/something. Distrust is common.


– aconite, arnica, arsenicum, carb-v, opium, nux-v, ign, liver rxs, stram, gels,



Great fear, anxiety and worry accompany every ailment, however trivial. Forebodings and fears. Delirium characterised by unhappiness, worry, fear, raving, rarely unconsciousness. Fears death, but believes that he will soon die; predicts the day. Fears the future, crowds, crossing busy streets; of touching others passing by; fear of loss of reason. Restlessness, tossing about. Tendency to start. Imagination acute, clairvoyance.

  • Stupefaction alternating with restlessness
  • self soothing mechanism for substance users


Nux Vom: (Agitated)

  • Fastidious, ambitious, irritable, malicious, violent, hurried.
  • Worse Early morning [unrefreshed, irritable, depressed, pains].
  • Very chilly. Pains better heat.
  • Craving for stimulants.
  • Cramped states.
  • Strong urge; ineffectual urging; feeling as if not finished. Pains and urging for stool.


Everything seems unreal, there is a pronounced lack of reaction, there is an element of escapism, heroic efforts, ANGER (reserved).


opium, the solonaceaes (belladonna, hyos, helleborous), staphysagria, phos-ac, natrums


Phos Acid:

Emaciation with suffering expression and sunken eyes. Twitching here and there, agg. lower limbs. Epilepsy. Discomfort after eating, with anxiety. Dullness of head and limbs as after intoxication or loss of sleep. Think of them as burning through or burnt out.


Nitric Acid:

Pains: sticking, pricking as from splinters; suddenly appearing and disappearing; Sensation: of a band around head, around the bones. broken – down constitutions. After continued loss of sleep, long – lasting anxiety; over – exertion of mind and body from nursing the sick; anguish from the loss of his dearest friend; indifference; tired of life;


Opium/Papa (Numbed)

  • Withdrawal, especially after emotional or physical shocks [fright, shame, sight of an accident, reproaches, head injury, surgery].
  • Unaffected by external impressions; or boldness and fearlessness.
  • Snoring respiration.
  • Worse Heat; better cold.
  • All secretions suppressed [ie. constipation], except perspiration.
  • No pain.

Needs stimulants (coffee, alcohol, heroin



Trauma (discrimination), abuse, injuries, ANGER (expressed or reserved).

The state has a stronger hold on them. It is more complex and a deeper part of them at this point.


  • alum, natrums, the lacs, ANGER (EXPRESSED), androc, latrodrectus, some snake remedies.


Chief Complaints (agitated and/or numbed) Matching to… the Homeopathic Remedies’ state.


Treating the Drugs’ States:

  • methadone
  • Suboxone
  • Clonazepam (benzo)
  • Xanax
  • Respiradone
  • Trazedone
  • Prozac
  • Divalproacz (was for seizures, bipolar (epival)
  • zoplaclone


Numbed states, joint pains, nightmares, foggy head, tired feeling, OR nervous/jittery feeling, constipation, diarrhea, other digestive complaints…



  • Nux vom (agitated) impatient, irritable, hurried
  • Opium (numb)
  • Sulphur

Agitated. hurried. Sharp pains. extreme. Burps and tastes of sulphur. Can’t eat. Needs to lie down. Lying down helps. Sharp cramps in right side. Two hours after eating. Quickly. Pain, burping & gas. Worse from dairy. Takes lactaid but it doesn’t help. Sulphur 30C single dry dose followed by Sulphur 6X in RSB every second day for two weeks. Follow up after two weeks. Less indigestion, haven’t been burping, no burps, stomach not cramping anymore. Just better generally. Sleep is great.



Arnica Arnica
Rhus tox Camphor
Bryonia Crot casc


A case example of Crot Casc for agitated/restlessness and pain in the ribs (hernia).


CASE: “Constant. Like a knot. Size of an egg”. He broke his leg in 5 places. “Head injury. Sucker punched. Never saw it coming. Spit out teeth. ‘took it like a champ’.” He has a heart murmur. Is on methadone. Has constipation and sleep problems. So we give Arnica and some methadone 6C in RSB daily. Follow up – he has had a heart attack. Feeling better than before the heart attack. He had felt like it was heart burn. Burning & squeezing feeling. Wants to quit smoking. He talks about nasty dreams. Violent dreams. Flying dreams. Colours in his dreams. Green. It is about people being two faced and about being lied to. There is a duality within him where he is joking with us but also very serious. He is loquacious and he is flirting with us.

We give crot casc 220C dry doses.

Follow up – feeling on top of the world. Talks about reconnecting with his sister. Constipation is not bad. Digestion is good. Appetite is good. Talks about quitting smoking. Only two cigarettes today. … he called to pass on the message that he did really well at the treatment centre and has been reunited with his family and is doing great. Said to say thank you to the homeopaths.


Panic attacks, anxiety/restlessness/agitation/anger/irritability


  • Stramonium
  • Aranea
  • Tarentula
  • Carbo veg (as above)
  • Nux (as above)


STRAMONIUM (AGITATED/but can see it in numbed state)

Mostly – if not then staring (eyes off kilter):

Violence and violent fears.

  • Worse darkness; better light.
  • Worse alone; better company.
  • Suppressed secretions.
  • Spasmodic affections; recurrent.



CASE: He presents as very restless. Has anxiety. “Do I speak really quickly? Can you understand me? Go, go, go, comes out in the way I talk. Tried to read out loud yesterday. Not breathing between sentences. Like holding my breath. Need to slow down. Take a deep breath. Confusion. Discombobulated. All these thoughts. Trying to assemble them. Can find the words but can’t get them out. My brain is like mush. Pains – neck, limbs, knees ankles and especially hands. I’ve seen a lot of violent things that the human mind isn’t supposed to see. Worst dream ever last night. Crying when I woke up. A vicious attack. Traumatic. Stunned. Petrified. Like a deer in headlights. Had to wake myself up in it. I was seeing myself die, or almost. I’ve lived a crazy life. Could write a book or a movie. Sold drugs on the street. Chaos, death, destruction, tragedy, trauma… Wants children. Two miscarriages then my girlfriend had a baby but both she and the baby died.”



Frantic restlessness and ailments from unrequited love and pain in the hands. Foggy headed. Sleep restless, with frequent waking, and always with a sensation as if hands and forearms were swollen and heavy.

Next time we see him (two weeks later), he says he is happy. So we give him some of the rx to bring with him (aranea 220C)



  • fidgeting, very jittery, knees bouncing, hand spinning, rubbing fingers]
  • He says – “I’m a bit irritable, hyper, can’t sit still. Can’t concentrate, I pace around. Like a dog that’s jumping up and wants to go for a walk or begging for food. He’s trying to quit smoking… he says – it’s like somebody keeps nagging at you, knocking at your door. Your mind goes 100 miles an hour.”


Constant movement of the legs, arms, trunk, with inability to do anything; twitching and jerking of muscles. Restlessness, could not keep quiet in any position; must keep in motion, though walking agg. all symptoms.

Amelioration: In open air; music; rubbing affected parts. Termini of nerves became so irritated and sensitive that some kind of friction was necessary to obtain relief.




  • Ignatia
  • ‘Papa’


Ignatia part:


CASE: “My wife just died (3 months ago). Aches in back of neck and shoulder. The grief is way worse than anything. There’s anger, confusion, loss, despair – all at once… the first week, all I did was cry. We made it through everything. That’s what we wanted. To live old and die old together. I’m not accepting of it yet. Denial. Blame myself. anger.”



Mental conditions change rapidly, in an incredibly short time, change from joy to sorrow, from laughing to weeping, moody. Persons mentally and physically exhausted by long , concentrated grief.

A year and two months later:

“My wife died last Feb. I did drugs for five months, then came here… I think about her all the time, miss holding her hand. Smells remind me of her. I’ve been everywhere in the city with her. Coffee shops. etc… all I see is my death. I am very violent when I’m on drugs. I rob people, hurt people. I have a head injury from a big chunk of glass. It opened my skull. April 2, 2010 (two months prior). I think it did brain damage. I hurt myself sometimes, subconsciously. Gets me out of myself, stop thinking of her…. I don’t care how I come out of it. I’m very strong – I just use my knuckles. I got attacked by a gang of 20 people. They had bats and bars. I walked away… I welcomed death at that time”

Remember the description of opium earlier? Strength in the face of danger…



  • Withdrawal, especially after emotional or physical shocks [fright, shame, sight of an accident, reproaches, head injury, surgery].
  • Unaffected by external impressions; or boldness and fearlessness..
  • Worse Heat; better cold.
  • All secretions suppressed [ie. constipation], except perspiration.
  • No pain.
  • Needs stimulants (coffee, alcohol, heroin)



Heroic measures. Bold actions in the face of danger (adrenaline – pumped physical feats).




  • Avena
  • Opium/Papa (as above)
  • Coffea (as above)



Improves the nutrition of brain and nervous system. It is useful therefore in nervous exhaustion; debility after exhausting diseases. Nervous tremors of the aged, Inability to keep the mind fixed on any one subject. Bad effects of Morphine habit.


For our client (C.F.) for her insomnia… she gets up 3-4 times a night. It’s from the pain. It’s been like this for years. Will have a cigarette each time she gets up.


OBSERVATIONS: She is very sleepy and lethargic. She is talking a lot but not really saying much. Fibromyalgia, swelling. Hot showers help for about half an hour afterwards. We gave her Avena and Apis and then Kali carb. She reported that the Avena is helping for the sleep. First time she’s slept only getting up once a night instead of 3 or 4 times a night. Sleeping longer (four hours).



  • Aconite (as above)
  • Androctonos (Scorpion)



  • Over confidence
  • potentially dangerous, either to self or to others.
  • A sense of adolescent omnipotence, of invulnerability emerged.
  • Contemptuous. Want of moral feeling.
  • Quarrelsome. Unsympathetic.
  • Deceitful and defiant.
  • Delusion they are going to be assaulted.
  • Malicious with desire to injure.
  • Cruel and unfeeling.
  • Cold knife-edged violence, desire to stab things.
  • Suspiciousness.
  • Fear of one’s own impulses.

Lack of control.

  • Uncontrollable emotions. Or: complete inability to express emotions; can’t weep.
  • Wants to control others.


One of the main features of the remedy is a total lack of guilt and remorse, unfeeling. This is more so than in Anacardium which is more like snake remedies in that there is a strong sense of duality.



  • The Swiss government has determined that homeopathy is the most cost effective method of medical treatment for ‘ambulatory’ patients.
  • “From 1999 to 2005, 5 methods of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) applied by physicians were provisionally included in the mandatory Swiss basic health insurance. Within this process, an evaluation of cost-effectiveness is required.”
  • Homeopathy was one of the five methods and it turns out that it is the most cost effective, more than conventional medicine or any other complimentary medicine. Patients reported a better quality of the patient-physician relationship and fewer adverse side effects than with all other complementary medical approaches.
  • The positive general conclusion of the study was: “This study uses a health system perspective and demonstrates at least equal or better cost-effectiveness of complementary and alternative medicine in the setting of Swiss ambulatory care. CAM can therefore be seen as a valid complement to conventional medicine within Swiss health care.”


Homeopathy may not be easy, but it’s cheap!

About the author

Elena Cecchetto

Elena Cecchetto DCH, CCH, HMC, RSHom(NA), MSc (Cand)
El Cecchetto is on the founding board of Side by Side Homeopathy, a group of Homeopaths who are helping people in the Downtown Eastside with any of their health concerns. Some of the common complaints she helps people to address include anxiety, PTSD, depression, migraines, digestion concerns and insomnia. Her most happy moments are when she hears back from new parents about getting the colic, teething, nursing, sleeping, coughing, and rashes successfully addressed with homeopathic care. Her Homeopathic Pediatrics studies have been supported by extra conferences with Dr. Sunil Anand and Louis Klein.

El makes is very involved in Homeopathic associations such as the West Coast Homeopathic Society (WCHS), the BC Society of Homeopaths (BCSH) and the Canadian Society of Homeopaths (CSH).

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